Law & Order: Season 4, Episode 16

Big Bang (2 Mar. 1994)

TV Episode  -   -  Crime | Drama | Mystery
7.2
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A woman is killed after opening a mail bomb. The investigation leads to the discovery of a bitter research dispute between her ex-husband, a noted physicist, and a younger researcher that he double-crossed.

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Title: Big Bang (02 Mar 1994)

Big Bang (02 Mar 1994) on IMDb 7.2/10

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Cast

Episode cast overview, first billed only:
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Dr. Elizabeth Olivet (credit only)
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Max Weiss
Jennifer Van Dyck ...
Shelly Conners
Bill Moor ...
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Edward Manning
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Cynthia Thomas
Vince Viverito ...
Frank Rossi
Ellen Lancaster ...
Alice Weiss
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Barry Ramsey
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Storyline

Detectives Briscoe and Logan investigate when Florence Manning is severely injured and later dies in hospital when a letter bomb explodes in her apartment. When trace evidence of a radioactive material is found among the debris, the police naturally suspect the dead woman's estranged husband Edward Manning, a renowned physicist. He denies having anything to do with the crime and the police continue their investigation of those who may have had access to nuclear material. The focus is on Max Weiss whose post-doctoral fellowship recently expired and is now working as an apartment building doorman. During questioning he claims that Manning hired him to build and send the bomb but ADA Stone uncovers a different motive: Manning had turned down Weiss' application for a research grant and intended to steal his idea leading Weiss to seek revenge. Getting Manning to testify in court to academic theft will not be easy however. Written by garykmcd

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2 March 1994 (USA)  »

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Adam Schiff: Terrific. Now to win a larceny trial all we have to do is prove how the universe ends.
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Amusing.
9 September 2011 | by (Deming, New Mexico, USA) – See all my reviews

This one is a little complicated but stands out because it has some very amusing exchanges. Not that anyone laughs. No one ever laughs seriously in "Law and Order." A physicist's wife is blown up by a letter bomb. The makings are traced to a youngish physicist, a PhD (Mell) who is now working as a doorman because his research application was turned down. The physicist who deep-sixed the application (Yulin, perennial bad guy) is a middle-aged physicist who evidently stole the ideas in the application and used them in his own research. Mell sent the homemade bomb to Yulin's address where it may have been opened by Yulin's wife by mistake.

The DA's office can't convincingly link Mell and Yulin in any kind of conspiracy, although they suspect Yulin helped Mell prepare the bomb in order to deliberately kill his embittered wife. So they decide to attack the smug Yulin through his reputation. They charge him with grand larceny in the fourth degree; viz., appropriating Mell's theory of proton decay as his own, while disparaging Mell's theory publicly.

I know it's a little confusing, but it boils down to the DA's office determining that Yulin stole Mell's idea. "Pardon me," says the phlegmatic Yulin, "but doesn't larceny imply that the thing stolen was of some value? (Mell's) idea was nonsense." Now Hill, Moriarty, and Hennessy have to disprove Yulin's statement. They must demonstrate in court that the idea had merit. Moriarty confides to Hennessy, "You know what I took for my science requirement? Physics for Poets." Hennessy: "Elementary Geology. Rocks for Jocks." None of them knows anything about physics.

They present their strategy to Hill in his office. It's all about protons falling apart in a certain way. Hill stops chewing his sandwich. "Is this something I should be worried about?" Hennessy tells him that it only means the universe will decay in a particular way. "Oh, great! Now, all we have to do to win a grand larceny case is prove how the world will end." She assures him it can be done. "Fine. Who're you supposed to call as a witness, the Allmighty?"

I had particular sympathy for the two physicists in this story -- one past his prime and just having missed the Nobel, and the other a youngish post-doctoral fellow who just can't seem to make a living at what he does. I was once in the same position, a scientist of sorts, with a doctorate and a longish list of publications, applying for a job as a pizza delivery boy. The "boys" were all dressed in colorful Edwardian costumes with straw hats. "Any delivery experience, sir?" asked the kid who was half my age and would have been my boss.

It's even worse for physicists. If you haven't made it in physics by the time you're thirty, you're over the hill. Mell's future would have featured a colorful costume too, a semi-military get up with a lot of the gold braid that doormen wear. Mell's simmering anger made a lot of sense. He had many years of hard work and, yes, devotion invested in that doctorate. I could sympathize with Yulin's desire for professional recognition too -- nobody is in it for the money -- but not with his theft. Stealing someone's idea is worse than cooking the books.


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